Whitehorse, Yukon

The rain began as soon as we had picked a spot to pitch out tents. We were in a hurry, as it was closing in on night darkness and we had made the inevitable mistake of assuming that after passing countless camp-sites we could move on a few more miles and easily find more. In slight desperation, we trudged off the road into the new growth aspen forest that has emerged after a fire burned through the area many years ago. Tents went up and we proceeded to have our evening recount of miles covered, elevation climbed, and moods of the day from our respective comforts of our nylon-walled fortresses. At that point we had successfully covered more than a thousand miles since the beginning of the Dalton Highway at Prudhoe Bay, and climbed in excess of 50,000 ft..
The day had been an easy one by all accounts, but the hardest to date for me. I was simply spent. It was the 11th day in a row on the bike and I couldn’t think of any other imaginable place that I wouldn’t rather be. Working as a garbage man or septic clean-out specialist came to mind, and even that sounded much more enjoyable than another day on the bike. Out of anger and frustration at the situation I managed to spin the pedals for more than 60 miles on the day. Patterns become very important when you are in those moments of desperation. On hills I often count my pedal strokes in patterns of 100. When the hills are steep and nearly unmanageable, I sit for a count of 100 and stand for a count of 100, eventually reaching the top of the hill. My pattern on that day was to stand up and pedal for one mile, and then sit for four miles. Repeated six times and 30 miserable miles were covered.
The rain continued all through the night. In the comfort of our tents the knowledge of a rain-soaked day on the bikes in order to get to Whitehorse was a mute, nearly laughable obstacle. Again, we awoke to rain pattering on the rain-flys of our tents and lied in the comfort of our bags preparing for the last few miles into Whitehorse. We were not spared from the deluge for more than just a few miles. Soaked and cold is a troubling way to travel on a bike. While we would love to stop for some warm tea and a bite to eat, the few minutes spent idle would surely have moved us ever closer to hypothermia. We rolled into downtown Whitehorse drenched and miserable, but safe in the knowledge that we wouldn’t have to move on further down the road for camp. We are being well looked after by a gracious host we contacted through warmshowers (warmshowers.org – a couchsurfing site for touring cyclists). It never ceases to amaze what a warm shower, some home cooked food, and a comfortable home can do to lift the spirits. Rest and relaxation are increasingly hard to manage, because with our time off in Whitehorse we are constantly working out all the things we must take care of before setting off once again. There is a steady reminder of our situation every time we look out at the cloudy, cool weather that beckons the onset of Winter.
Reaching each mini-destination only allows the next portion of the trip to come more clearly into focus. The route down the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is beckoning and once again open to travel following a few weeks of fire-related closure (thanks to the recent rains). To reach the start of the highway is 250 miles of eastward travel on the Alcan Hwy.. The Cassiar is 450 miles long and deposits us about halfway between Prince Ruport on the coast and Prince George in the interior. There are many stopping points along the way, but the encroaching winter is making me feel that my next goal needs to be Vancouver, 1500 miles away.
In the duration of this post, and my morning cup of coffee, I have progressed from one leg of the trip onto the next. Each day, each event of each day, is teaching me something about this life on the road. I constantly want to control the direction it is taking me, changing me, but the only thing I have constant control over is the direction I travel and the road I will take. The rest of the lessons and changes are introduced to me from the greater world at the end of my handlebars. Often unwanted, and in my view sometimes unwarranted, the lessons are breaking me down, building me up, and teaching me about myself and this world.

5 Responses to “Whitehorse, Yukon”

  1. Alison says:

    Hey Justin, I hope things are going well for you. Just the other day a biker from alaska came through my village which is Chugchilan. Ill be waiting for you. Unabrazo y hasta pronto.

  2. Vic says:

    You write well and with truth and integrity … not suprising. My heart goes out to you as you write about the difficulties and the downer moods and it soars when you talk about the wonders of it all. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you. Hugs — Vic

  3. Caitlyn says:

    I agree with Martha…your posts are a treat to read; your honesty about the road is moving and so translatable to the road of life we all travel. Keep your chin up and your heart open and your judgment minimal. What will come will come…and you will pedal through it, 100 strokes at a time. Much love from all your peeps in Bozeman!!!!

  4. Sara says:

    Hey Justin,
    Thanks for the great blog posts. Its fun to live vicariously through your trip. Look forward to hearing about all you adventures in person when you make it to Seattle!

  5. Martha says:

    I love how honest you are about this adventure, the dichotomy of pain/anguish and success/pride. What a treasure your posts are. I keep re-reading them to track who you are on a given day; who you might become on the next.

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